Guest post: Sadly not unusual

Originally a comment by Freeinder on The rights of mariners.

Sadly, this is not unusual. Even if the crew are issued shore passes, they may still be blocked from stepping ashore. Many ports in the USA are private property, and therefore declare crewmembers trespassers if they leave the ship. Many ports, globally, do not allow crew changes anymore, as they ban non-company vehicles from entering. This was common before 9/11, but afterwards it became virtually impossible in too many ports (here’s looking at you, Oakland, New York, Norfolk). Seattle, LA and San Francisco used to allow crew swaps, but then a mariner has just 24 (or in some cases 12) hours to leave US territory, on pain of arrest. My company preferred Vancouver, Halifax or Singapore to swap crew. Twice I had to extend a voyage, as the US blocked anyone leaving the ship. (Only Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait had enforced laws banning even stepping off the gangway, keeping a machine gun handy in case anyone was foolish enough. And using a camera on deck, even taking a picture of the ship, was illegal. But several US ports had armed guards patrolling the quay).

Once the Dali left the berth, and was heading out of US waters, any shore passes can be, and probably were, voided. As her next port was in Asia, immigration can simply refuse to re-issue new passes. The only time the crew might leave now is wearing handcuffs. If the ship comes alongside, expect the Coastguard to make their lives hell: drills, searches, interrogation, ripping the accommodation apart as they go. From the very bitter experience of having 9mm pistols pointed at me, because I was sticking to the international law that allows seafarers to have a locked cabinet in their cabin. CG broke it open when they found it locked, and then threatened me with arrest when I returned to my cabin to find broken furniture. It was not a pleasant day, and that made me seriously question how safe we were. And that was a British ship, with a British crew!

Once repaired, the crew of the Dali might be allowed to leave, without setting ashore, when she sails. But they are probably terrified of arrest.

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